constraints and innovation

Often great innovations come from (seemingly) tough constraints. In the web world, twitter and tumblr come to mind as two examples.

Twitter strips down the blogging experience and constrains users to type their message in 140 characters or less and tumblr makes sharing anything (text, video, pictures, quotes, etc.) easy and central.

So how do constraints help?

They focus the problem. No longer is it possible to consider every scenario. Constraints introduce focus, which is needed when trying to innovate.

They speed up the process. By constraining the options, there is less to consider which allows faster production and failure. Without rapid failure and iteration, there would be no innovation.

They help define the strategy. Constraints allow us to make trade-offs in strategy by defining "the not". Strategy is not only about what you will do, but also about what you will not do.

They foster collaboration. When constrained, teams generally work more closely together to overcome. Collaboration becomes a necessity and innovation the outcome.

Understanding that constraints typically lead to innovation was counterintuitive to me and hard for me to grasp, but now that I do I'm a firm believer.

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